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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(in Russian, tselostnost’), a general property of objects with a complex internal structure—for example, a society, an individual, a biological population, or a cell. The concept of wholeness expresses the integrality, self-sufficiency, and autonomy of these objects—their juxtaposition to their surroundings, which is linked to their internal activity; it expresses the qualitative distinctiveness of such objects that arises from their inherent specific regularities, or the laws governing their function and development. In Russian, the term tselostnost’ may also be applied to objects that have these properties, in which case it is used as a synonym for “the whole.”

The above-mentioned properties should be understood in the relative rather than in the absolute sense, inasmuch as the object itself has multiple connections with the environment and exists only in unity with that environment. Moreover, the notion of the wholeness of any given object is historically transient, being conditioned by the extent of previous scientific knowledge about that object. Thus in biology the notion of the wholeness of individual organisms was found to be inadequate in certain respects, and the concept of biocenosis was therefore introduced.

The methodological importance of the notion of wholeness is that it emphasizes the need to identify the inner properties of the object as a whole and underscores the fact that its specific properties cannot be adequately explained from without (for example, by using environmental conditions as a starting point). In modern science the concept of wholeness is a basic component of the systems approach.


See references under PARTS AND WHOLES.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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